USDA grants to bring improved educational, health care services to rural communities
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to provide access to education, training and health care resources in rural areas. Funding is authorized through the department’s distance learning and telemedicine grant program.
“With access to the latest technology, America’s rural citizens can compete in today’s global economy,” Vilsack said. “These distance learning and telemedicine grants will modernize equipment and improve healthcare services and educational opportunities for residents in remote areas. They will help generate jobs in small towns and revitalize rural economies.”
Under this notice, USDA may provide up to $17.5 million in grants. Funds can be used to buy equipment and provide technical assistance. To be eligible, applicants must serve a rural area, demonstrate economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds. Awards range up to $500,000. In 2012, USDA Rural Development provided 58 DLT grants for projects in 36 states. Since the program began 1,400 projects have been funded.
For example, in 2012, USDA Rural Development awarded educational service unit 16 in Ogallala, Neb. funds for distance learning to be used in a system-wide upgrade to outfit schools with video conferencing equipment and updating their video bridge in this vast sparsely populated area of southwest Nebraska. The modernized bridge unit is better able to leverage available bandwidth. This allows for richer content to run through the system while using less bandwidth expenses and saving on connection expenses. The project will provide students and others in their communities with expanded curriculum offerings, virtual travel opportunities and career advancement.
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